Raymond Berry was fired Monday as coach of the New England Patriots in a power struggle with General Manager Pat Sullivan. Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Rod Rust reportedly was the top candidate to succeed Berry.
The firing apparently centered on Sullivan's desire that Berry go outside the organization to name offensive and defensive coordinators, while Berry apparently wanted to fill those spots from his current staff.
"In my job as a coach, I'm hired to give these people my best judgment," said Berry, who was released one day before his 57th birthday and after 5 1/2 seasons in which the Patriots were 48-39. "I do things I believe in and I have a very difficult time doing things I don't believe in."
Sullivan had no comment.
But in a statement released by the team, Sullivan said the decision to release Berry, who took the team to Super Bowl XX against the Chicago Bears, was "the most difficult and most unpleasant of my career."
The Patriots were 5-11 last season, their worst record since 1981, and missed the NFL playoffs for the third consecutive year.
The Steelers said they had given Rust permission to talk with the Patriots. Rust was Berry's defensive coordinator for 3 1/2 seasons before filling that position with Kansas City in 1988 and the Steelers in 1989.